Fitness Goals in 2020

11 Jan

Still on my 40 Before 40 are two challenges related to fitness and, if I am to have any chance of completing them, I need to get fit in 2020. Over the festive period I managed to put on weight just by looking at food and fester on the coach with a beer for the rest of it. So, I have set myself some fitness goals to change that.

Because of global warming, I have already managed to get outside and do some running this year even with my asthmatic lungs. In January I have ran 18km so far and I feel like I am getting back into a rhythm again. There is still a long way to go.

My main aim this year is to beat a personal best time in a race and to get myself in good shape so I am ready to take part in my first ultra marathon in 2021. I realised quite a few things about myself last year which I took into account when I was making these goals.

  • If I don’t have a clear goal in mind, I find it very hard to keep my fitness. Last year with netball trials and then a 10km to train for in August, I was very focused and found it easy to stick to, knowing I had a big event I needed to be ready for. For January I have promised myself that I will do at least 20 minutes of exercise 15 times during the month. That is basically doing something once every other day. I’m managing to stick to it but it is only the 11th January. I am going to set a small fitness goal each month to keep myself motivated.
  • I got myself into shape last year by doing little bits often. I didn’t do huge long runs or bike rides but a short run during lunch times for a couple of miles. Not completely tiring myself out meant I was motivated keep going the next day. I am convinced that, if I had completed two more longer runs before I did the 10km in Dublin, I would have beaten my personal best time. I was just lacking a bit more distance in my legs to keep me going over the final stages.
  • There is a running track close to where we live and I said before the Dublin 10km that I would go there to work on my speed and some different training. I never made it so this year I’m going to do it. Even if I go once a month that is better than nothing.
  • I have a book about running and how to coach yourself to train better. I dread to think how long I have had it gathering dust on my shelf – I’m going to read it this month to help me train better.
  • The most important thing I learnt came when I started with a colleague from work during lunchtime. When asked if I could join her she said she runs really slow. That wasn’t a problem for me. And the pace was slow, perhaps one and a half minutes per kilometer slower than I normally run but I loved it. I wasn’t covered in sweat, red faced and feeling exhausted by the end of it. It doesn’t matter how fast you run so long as you enjoy it. Now I try not to look at my watch as I’m running to see what pace I’m running. This is a lot easier in the colder months when I am wearing long sleeves; there’s no temptation to look down at my watch every five seconds. Of course, if I am training for a PB, I will need to focus on running quicker but at the moment my focus is on getting out there and losing some weight.

Looking at these goals it looks like a lot but the main thing is to enjoy exercising. I do enjoy running and exercise so it’s strange why I always end up stopping and not doing anything – as soon as I get back into the habit I wonder why I didn’t carry on in the first place.

Do you have any fitness goals for this year?

 

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Challenge #30 – completed!

4 Jan

In the dying hours of 2019, I completed the latest of my 40 Before 40 challenges. Okay, that is slightly over-dramatic. I completed it at about noon on the 31st December 2019 because I had the day off and I was feel guilty that I hadn’t really done anything productive. But I finally solved my Rubik’s cube.

I have tried it a few times in the past and got more and more frustrated with it. It seemed like I managed to get part of it completed but then ‘messed’ up another side that I had already completed. This time I sat down and and completed the whole thing in one sitting. If I ‘messed’ up parts that were finished, I took a deep breath and started again.

Back together again!

I probably sound like a genius but I’m not – I did use a guide to solve the cube that I found online. The chances of you winning the lottery is much, much more plausible that being able to solve it just by randomly turning the sides. In fact, it took Rubik (the Hungarian inventor of the puzzle) more than 6 months to solve it himself.

Even with instructions it was tricky and I had to concentrate to make sure I was doing the next step correctly. And there are certain steps that you need to do in order to complete it. First you need to start with getting a white cross in position and then getting the correct corner pieces in position. I didn’t know that the middle square in a 3×3 cube doesn’t move so that determines what ‘face’ it is. You can’t just complete the white face without the corner and edge pieces being in the right place.

A lot of the solving of the puzzle is based on algorithms. When you see people on TV solving them in a matter of seconds, they must have memorized all of the algorithms previously and then just move the pieces in accordance to the moves they have memorized. It took me ages longer than the person who has the world record for solving a Rubik’s cube (4.22 seconds in case you were wondering) but I did it. I can’t actually put into words how satisfying it was when I turned the side for one last time and realised that it was finished.

I had thought that this could be a party trick of mine. I could take a Rubik’s cube with me to parties to impress friends and family by magically solving the cube. Or even show strangers on the bus, after all it doesn’t take up that much room in my handbag. The reality is that I would probably produce the cube and then spend another hour sitting in a corner, swearing quietly to myself while everyone slowly loses interest. So my search for a part trick continues but there is one less challenge on my list…

2019 in Numbers

30 Dec

As the year and decade is coming to a close, I thought it would be good to review my year in numbers as I did last year.

So here it is:

  • 102 is the number of books I have read in 2019. I have no idea how I have managed to do this. At the start of the year, I wasn’t working so I did have more time to read but I also had a break half way through the year where I hardly read anything for 2 months. This means I covered a huge 30’208 pages over the course of the year and the longest book I read was Gone With The Wind. I want to set myself a challenge reading goal for next year but I also want to dedicate more time to writing so I will have to put some thought into that.
  • I visited 7 new countries in Europe this year: Leichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. I now only need to visit 6 more and my challenge to visit 40 countries before I am 40 will be completed. So far, I don’t have any definite plans to visit any countries that are on my list but that will most likely change.
  • Talking of challenges, this year I have completed 7 more challenges from my list and 3 of them are very, very nearly finished. Of the challenges that I have completed this year, my favourite was paragliding in Interlaken in the summer.
  • I competed in 2 international netball tournaments this year which is incredible when I only started playing netball again at the start of this year. It would have been 3 but I was in the Ukraine exploring Chernobyl when the tournament in Amsterdam was held.
  • I have run 270km this year and cycled 223km. I would like to think that I can easily beat these totals in 2020 but that means that I have to lose some weight and stay injury free.
  • I have completed 4 short stories. This is a mini-miracle because for years I haven’t been able to finish any story I have started. I am now planning on completing a collection of short stories early next year. I also made a rough plan of a novel which I might revisit next year as well.
  • I started a new job and have already been there for 6 months.
  • I’ve had one of my photos published in the Swiss inflight magazine and one of my tweets appeared on the BBC Sports website during Wimbledon fortnight.
  • Most recently our family celebrated not one but two important birthdays with both of my grandparents reaching their 90th birthdays.

2019 was a great year. I have managed to tick more things off my list and stayed happy and healthy for the most part. Who knows what 2020 will bring. There is only one way to find out.

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A great reason to celebrate

23 Dec

In a few days it will be Christmas Day. For the first time in seven years, I won’t be altering the lyrics of Chris Rea’s hit song to “Flying Home for Christmas”. I am staying in Switzerland for Christmas and New Year. It’s a strange feeling, not getting everything packed and psyching myself up for battling through the huge lines at security and passport control.

The truth is that I feel like my Christmas was a couple of weekends ago. We went back to the UK to attend my grandparents’ 90th birthday party. Having one grandparent turn 90 is amazing, never mind both of them within a day of each other. My grandma is actually one day older than my granddad. It was a great reason to celebrate: so often people are too busy to meet up and never quite get round to doing it.

I was trying to think about all of the changes that they would have seen within their lifetime and my head hurt after a while because a list of everything that has changed in the last 90 years is pages upon pages long. And they are even up with technology – they check my blog to see what I am up to on a regular basis!

I can’t remember the last time that all of our family was in the same room at the same time. It was so nice to see and catch up with everyone before the real panic of Christmas kicked in. We had dinner together and because, it was a basically a Christmas dinner with Brussel sprouts, Christmas crackers and mince pies, I feel like I haven’t missed out on a traditional English Christmas. At least this time I didn’t fall asleep in front of the TV after drinking too much Bucks Fizz before 11am!

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Celebrating with Grandma and Granddad – can you spot the 90-year-olds?

I was hoping that staying in Switzerland would mean that I would be guaranteed a white Christmas but the weather is far too warm to snow in the city at the moment. It looks like it might snow next week. In the meantime I will be eating lots of Fondue and Raclette which are traditional winter eats here. It does make a change from eating dry turkey for the next two weeks but the apartment will definitely smell like smelly socks for a week.

Wherever you are and whomever you are with, I wish you a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season.

Challenge #28 – completed

13 Dec

I have cashed in my Christmas present from last year and can also mark another one of my challenges as completed! This was a very enjoyable challenge but that might be because during its completion I go happier and happier. Over the past two weeks I have spent 6 hours learning about and tasting wine on a wine degustation course.

Both of the evenings began with a smell test. There were 12 different scents that we had to try to identify. It was incredibly difficult because you don’t have any context to place the smell. You convince yourself that you can smell X but when you are told that Y is the answer you instantly know that Y is correct. On the first evening I got one out of 12 correct and the second evening I got 3 out of 12. The lecturer told us that you can get better at identifying aromas but it takes a lot of practice. He also explained our recognition of smell and aromas is heavily linked to the environment that we grew up in. For example, if you always ate watermelon as a child on holiday, the smell is linked to your memories and is much more easy to recognise than someone who does have this smell linked to a memory. The weird thing was that both myself and my boyfriend were convinced one of the smells was rose but it was actually hay. I guess I will be getting a bunch of hay for Valentine’s Day because neither of us can tell the difference.

The first evening focused on the world of wine, what conditions were best for growing wine and how to assess wines with all of your senses. We were shown how you should taste the wines and what differences you can look out for in different wines: “Do you also get the heady scent of mushrooms and coffee, darling?” We blind tasted 8 different wines during this evening. Some of them I didn’t like at all. My favourite of the whole evening turned out to be a 7 CHF  (or 5 GBP) bottle. 

The second evening focused on wine and food. I knew that on food programmes that wine is paired with specific meals and ingredients but I never knew why. Depending on what wine you pair with which foods the whole flavour of the wine can change. We tried this out by drinking wine on its own, then after eating a dried tomato and then after eating salt. How our perception of the wine changed with each combination was incredible. There is no way that you would think the wine was the same. Last year we went to a independent wine fair in Strasbourg and ate some strong, stinky cheese in between tasting wine. We now know that this has a huge effect on how the wine tastes so we might have a shock when we come to drink some of those bottles and they taste completely different to what we thought.

This knowledge is good to know for future tasting and it means that even though we have different tastes in wines we can ‘alter’ the flavour of the wine with what we eat with it.

We were also shown how temperature effects wine, how long it is best to store wine and how the wine glass can also affect how a wine tastes. There was also an instructional video about how to open a sparkling wine bottle with a bread knife. I will be trying that outside in the summer with a very inexpensive bottle in case it goes wrong. There was a huge amount of information packed into both of the evenings. The course was in German so I also learnt some new words related to food and wine.

I’m so glad that I had this on my list. I’m far from being an expert in wine but I know that the most expensive wines are not always the best and what I can eat to make a wine more pleasant for my palette.

 

Shooting success!

11 Dec

This year I set myself a goal of getting a result of more than 70 out of 100 at a shooting competition. Before last weekend I had shot 69 a grand total of 3 times! I had almost given up hope of ever getting 70.

All that changed at the very last meeting of the year. Somehow I finished the day with a total of 79! To say I was surprised was an understatement. I was also over-the-moon happy and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it since.

I think shooting is a lot like golf from a psychological point of view: the more relaxed you are, the easier it is. It’s so easy to overthink it. Because I had all but given up on hitting my target and wasn’t trying to get a great result, I was more relaxed. It’s pretty hard to be relaxed when you are holding something that could blow someone’s head off but you know what I mean.

Even though I am still happy with the result, there is a tiny part of me that is kicking myself that my last shot was a 6. One point higher and I would have reached the 80 mark. I guess I will have to wait to reach that milestone next year.

I won 2nd place for the women’s section of the competition. Ok, only 2 of us took part so that’s not so impressive. I won a Grittibänz as a prize. A Grittibänz is a delicious, baked man that it traditionally sold around Christmas time in Switzerland.

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My prize!

I would have ended up in 7th place if the men and women’s sections were combined meaning that I beat quite a few men who have been shooting all their lives. Now that’s impressive!

WriteCon 2019

7 Dec

This time last week I was at WriteCon in Zurich. It’s an informal conference that happens every year in Zurich which allows writers to connect and provides a number of workshops throughout the day. I’ve been meaning to attend for the last two years but something has always cropped up so I haven’t been able to go. I was determined to go this year.

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And go I did. The first workshop that I attended was led by Jason Donald, who has published two novels and is now working in screen writing. The aim of the workshop was to talk about how to edit your work and freshen up pieces in your second draft. The ticket price was worth it for this workshop alone. I learnt a lot of new things and interesting ways to look at things I have written. I wanted to rush straight home and look at some of the things that I had written the day before. The advice was so practical and completely made sense to me. I also gained confidence from talking to Jason about the feeling that I have that my writing doesn’t ‘fit’ into a specific genre and about how I have started writing a book but have abandoned it to write a collection of short stories. He had exactly the same feelings and his first book started off as a collection of short stories which he eventually wrote together when he realised that there was an underlying theme to all of the stories. Perhaps I am on the right path…

After the lunch break I went to a workshop called “Pathways to Publishing”. I anticipated this would be a general discussion about how to decide between self-publishing and a traditional publishing route and what the pros and cons of both was. It turned out it was mainly a discussion about traditional publishing. It was interesting because I learnt how little an author earns per book that is sold and I also learnt that authors get paid every time a book of theirs is taken out of a library (which helped my guilty conscious when I borrow books rather than buying them).

I was surprised how many people had a negative impression of novels that are self-published. Many famous authors self-published their work, like Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Stephen King. So long as the book is well-written I don’t see the problem with it. I think self-published novels get a bad press when they haven’t been edited properly and people have self-published just to say that they have had a book published. I am still trying to decide what I think is best to do but I need to write the book first!

All in all, I’m glad I went. I met some more writers and learnt some things that I have already been able to use when I am writing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have my book finished.

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